Jump to Navigation

David Rice Atchison

Portrait of David Rice Atchison, 1850U.S. senator from Missouri. Born: August 11, 1807, Kentucky. Died: January 26, 1886, Missouri.

David Rice Atchison was a proslavery leader from Missouri. He represented that state in the U.S. Senate from 1843 to 1855. He was involved in various aspects of the territorial conflict.  He commanded several different proslavery troops and was believed to participate in the sack of Lawrence.  He was a founder of the Law and Order Party that encouraged southerners to settle in Kansas Territory.

The U.S. senator from Missouri lived very close to the Kansas border. He said, "The prosperity or the ruin of the whole South depends on the Kansas struggle." Atchison argued that Missourians had a special stake in the outcome of Kansas Territory. His belief was so strong that he encouraged Missourians to cross the border and illegally vote in Kansas elections to help sway the outcomes. He and other proslavery supporters appealed to people in the South. They asked for money, moral support, and proslavery settlers to come to Kansas Territory.

As president protempore of the senate on Sunday March 4, 1849, when President James Polk's term ended, some say Atchison was president for a day. Zachary Taylor chose to wait until Monday to be inaugurated along with his vice president Millard Fillmore. Atchison was next in line as acting vice president.

The city of Atchison, founded in 1854, along the Missouri River, was named for the senator as was Atchison County.

Several items authored by Atchison and others in Kansas Memory illustrate the emotional rhetoric of this era:  The Voice of Kansas, Let the South Respond and a speech by Atchison before the sack of Lawrence.


Portions from The Kansas Journey.

Entry: Atchison, David Rice

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: March 2011

Date Modified: February 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.